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ND health care providers sign letter asking for universal masking in schools

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The providers are members of North Dakota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the North Dakota Medical Association and the North Dakota Academy of Family Physicians.

Over 150 North Dakota physicians and health care providers have signed a letter pleading with school systems and parents to adopt universal indoor masking policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The highly contagious Delta variant has surged to prominence in North Dakota in recent weeks, just as classes began in schools across the state – and most do not require masking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend universal indoor masking by all students aged 2 and older, staff, teachers and visitors within K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status. Providers who are members of the North Dakota chapter of the AAP, the North Dakota Medical Association and the North Dakota Academy of Family Physicians are in agreement with those recommendations.

Dr. Grant Syverson is a pediatrician and pediatric rheumatologist with Sanford Health in Fargo, and is also the advocacy chair for the North Dakota chapter of the AAP. Syverson says North Dakota’s current vaccination rates are not sufficient enough to protect children who are still too young to receive the shots, and providers are concerned about the capacity to care for them when they get sick.

"We've had to transfer several kids out of state already because they were so severely ill that we couldn't manage them anymore. That happens with other illnesses too, but the hard part is that hospitals are not just dealing with kids with COVID. They're also dealing with kids that have other respiratory illnesses. It's not that we're being overwhelmed with kids with COVID, but the number of inpatients we have for other things are also quite high. We're really on a delicate balance, and if we continue to have more and more admissions, our ability to care for those children appropriately could be compromised."

The letter in its entirety and signatures are below:

————

An Open Letter to Superintendents, School Board Members, and Parents:

As physicians and healthcare providers in your communities, we have seen firsthand the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our patients, hospitals, and health care workers. It is a battle we are fighting every day. In an effort to keep our communities healthy, we need your help to keep our students safe and healthy.

Hospitals throughout the country are seeing significantly more children who are sicker than at any other time during the pandemic. We want to encourage safe, common-sense strategies to prevent pediatric illnesses and hospitalizations while ensuring our children have the best opportunity to remain in school.

Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant and rise in COVID-19 cases among young people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. For more in-depth information regarding K-12 school recommendations, view the CDC’s website.

Why are we recommending masking for ALL students and staff?

• The Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous variants and hospitalizations of pediatric patients have increased.

• Many North Dakota school systems are not performing adequate or timely COVID testing and are not recommending appropriate quarantine protocols creating confusion for parents and virus transmission within schools.

• North Dakota’s vaccination rates are not sufficient to protect our children. We rank near the bottom of the United States.

• Unvaccinated populations remain highly vulnerable to the Delta variant. In children, early observations show higher hospitalization rates and more severe illness.

• Less than 30% of eligible school age adolescents have been vaccinated and represent a large potential for transmission and infection.

• Elementary students are currently ineligible for vaccination, so their primary protection is masking and other mitigation measures. Some students with medical or developmental conditions are not able to mask consistently.

• Local and state COVID-19 case rates are already far ahead of what they were last year and will continue to increase due to lack of masking and vaccination

• Hospitals, including pediatric hospitals around the country, are reaching capacity and the peak of illness continues to be weeks away.

In-person school has clear educational, safety, physical and mental health benefits. Students and teachers are already getting sick. As you modify your schools COVID-19 safety plans, please require masking by all staff and students. Universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consistent messaging and expectations. We also strongly recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for your employees and community members especially those working directly with children in schools. The vaccines are highly effective and safe.

Safe and healthy school environments must be everyone’s responsibility, and these mitigation strategies are essential. Without these efforts children will get needlessly sick, there will be severe illness, and potentially even death.

Sincerely,

Bradley Aafedt, MD

Kathy Anderson, MD, FAAP

Misty Anderson, DO

Wayne Anderson, MD

Stephanie Antony, MD, FAAP

Laura Archuleta, MD

Shawna Baker, MD

Gabriela Balf Soran, MD

Cody Baxter, PA

Ashley Benson, NP

Steven Berndt, MD

Timothy Blaufuss, DO

A Michael Booth, MD

Tara Bradner, FNP-C

Carrie Brower-Breitwieser, PhD

Melanie Brumwell, MD

Ben Bucher, FNP-BC, MBA, LNHA

James Buhr, MD

Tuan Bui, MD

Rachel Busko, MD

Cristina Calin, MD

Paul Carson, MD

Thomas Carver, MD, FAAP

Kari Casas, MD

Benjamin Chaska, MD

Melanie Chihak, DO

Charles Christianson, MD

Chris Cleveland, MD

Joan Connell, MD, FAAP

Stephanie Dahl, MD

Christina daSilva, MD, FAAP

Angela Dornacker, MD

Natalie Dvorak, MD

Kristina England, MD

Christopher Failing, MD

David Field, MD

Brennan Forward, MD

Stephanie Foughty, MD

Evelyn Fuentes-Dondoneau, MD

Anu Gaba MD, Fargo

Swami Gade, MD

Jane Gaffrey, DO

Aaron Garman, MD

Andrew Gasparini, MD

Sreejith Gopi, MD

Genevieve Goven, MD

Kristin Gray, MD

Michael Greenwood, MD

Shabnum Gupta, MD, MPH

Stephanie Hanisch, MD

Stephanie Hanson, MD, FAAP

Chris Henderson, MD

Tonia Hoggarth, MD

Shannon Holsen, MD

Ashley Horner, MD

Justin Horner, MD

Melissa Horner, MD

Jeffrey Hostetter, MD

Oguakwa Ifesinachi, MD

Michael Jankoviak, MD

Ash Jensen, MD

Eric Johnson, MD

Mandi Johnson, MD

Roxanne Jonas, MD

Michelle Jorgensen, MD

Bethany Kaemingk, MD

Andrea Kaster, MD

Mustafa Kathawala, MD

Seema Khosla, MD

M. Kim Kinzak Jones, MD

Diane Kjelstrup, MD

Theodore Kleiman, MD

Dale Klein, MD

Jill Klemin, MD

Jacinta Klindworth, MD

Lisa Kozel, MD, FAAP

Laura Kroetsch, MD

Melissa Kunkel, MD

Parag Kumar, MD, FAAP

Patty Laqua, MD

Maria S Li, MD

Molly Linn, DO, FAAP

Madeline Luke, MD

Aaron Makens, MD

William Mann, MD

Jared Marquardt, MD

Maria Marchenko, MD

Jocelyn Mattson, MD

Clifford Mauriello, MD

Denise McDonough, MD

Stephen McDonough, MD, FAAP

William McKinnon, MD

Taylor Mertz, MD

Tara Mertz-Hack, MD

Keith Millette, MD

Brandon Meyer, MD, FAAP

Samuel Milanovich, MD

Keith Millette, MD

CJ Mischel, MD

Jagila Minso, MD, FAAP

Rupkumar Nagala, MD

Fadel Nammour, MD

David Newman, MD

Tracie Newman, MD, FAAP

Lynelle Noisy Hawk, MD

Margaret Nordell, MD

Rena Nordeng, MD

Amy Ochsendorf, PsyD

Samuel Odame Anim, MD

Amanda Oney, CPNP

Amy Oksa, MD, FAAP

Sarah Paur, APRN-CPNP

Janak Patel, MD

Jennifer Peterson, MD, FAAP

Heidi Philpot, MD

Michelle Placke, MD

Samantha Porter, NP

Gregory Post, MD

Rebecca Preussler, PsyD

Chris Pribula, MD

Myra Quanrud, MD, FAAP

Carrie Ann Ranum, MD, FAAP

Kristina Rauser-Foltz, MD

Ashish Regulagadda, MD

Sara Reinke, MD, FAAP

Marc Ricks, MD, FAAP

Shannon Sauter, MD

Laura Schield, MD

Steve Schoneberg, MD

Brian Selland, MD

Arveity Setty, MD, FAAP

Agnieszka Solberg, MD

Steven Strinden, MD

Grant Syverson, MD, FAAP

Rebecca Swenson DO, Bismarck

Alex Thompson, MD, FAAP

Brenda Thurlow, MD, FAAP

Matthew Tinguely, MD

Stephen Tinguely, MD, FAAP

Chris Tiongson, MD, FAAP

Ana Tobiasz, MD

Beverly Tong, MD

Chelsea Traverse, MD

Stephanie Traxinger, DO

Matthew Viscito, MD

Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN

Debra Walker, MD

Joel Walz, MD

Patrick Welle, MD, FAAP

Jane Winston, MD

Kirk Wyatt, MD

Carla Zacher, MD, FAAP

Ryan Zimmermann, MD

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